Such are the vagaries of history that some questions linger, some controversies rage on, evidence comes to light, opinions sharpen. It happens with many events, from the sinking of the Titanic to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. And so it is with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941—the event that brought the United States into World War II. Although many aspects of the Pearl Harbor attack are well established, even now, 80 years on, there are pieces still in contention, decisions made (or avoided) still disputed. Here, we survey a few of those issues:
From the first moments after the Japanese attack, U.S. fleet commander Admiral Husband E. Kimmel became a marked man: Kimmel the scapegoat. The failure of readiness left five U.S. battleships sunk or crippled on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the advanced base of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Someone had to be blamed.
Harry E. Barnes, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, 1953).
Charles A. Beard, President Roosevelt and the Coming of War, 1941 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1948).
David Bergamini, Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1971).
Robert J. C. Butow, Tojo and the Coming of the War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1961).
VADM George C. Dyer, USN (Ret.), On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor: The Memoirs of Admiral James O. Richardson (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Division, 1973).
Ladislas Farago, The Broken Seal (New York: Random House, 1967).
Herbert Feis, The Road to Pearl Harbor: The Coming of the War Between the United States and Japan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950).
Michael Gannon, Pearl Harbor Betrayed: The True Story of a Man and a Nation under Attack (New York: Henry Holt, 2001).
Eri Hotta, Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy (New York: Knopf, 2013).
Noriko Kawamura, “Emperor Hirohito and Japan’s Decision to Go to War with the United States: Reexamined,” Diplomatic History 31, no. 1 (January 2007): 51–79.
Noriko Kawamura, Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015).
Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Admiral Kimmel’s Story (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1955).
George Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War (New York: Devin-Adair, 1947).
Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, vol. 3, The Rising Sun in the Pacific (Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1948).
Kevin O’Connell, Pearl Harbor: The Missing Motive (North Charleston, SC: Create Space, 2015).
John Prados, Combined Fleet Decoded: The Secret History of American Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II (New York: Random House, 1995).
Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981).
Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein, and Katherine V. Dillon, Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986).
James Rusbridger and Eric Nave, Betrayal at Pearl Harbor: How Churchill Lured Roosevelt into World War II (New York: Summit Books, 1991).
David E. Sanger, “In a Memoir, Hirohito Talks of Pearl Harbor,” The New York Times, 15 November 1990.
Robert Stinnet, Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor (New York: Free Press, 1999).
Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, A Matter of Honor: Pearl Harbor—Betrayal, Blame, and a Family’s Quest for Justice (New York: Harper-Collins, 2016).
Charles C. Tansill, Back Door to War (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1952).
John Toland, Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1982).
U.S. Congress, 79th Congress, 1st Session, Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Hearings, Exhibits, Reports (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1946).
Alan D. Zimm, Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions (Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2011).